Mission Accomplished: Tom’s 2019 Season Review

 

It’s been quite a season for Port. Third place and a cup win represents our best effort in at least 20 years, and there’s plenty of acclaim to go around. Port’s owners have invested heavily in the team, the fans have come out in numbers we haven’t seen in recent years, the players took the fight to win the league down to the wire and after a nail-biting final we ended up with an FA Cup to show for it all. It’s a good time to be a Port fan! Here’s a look back at a few things that made this season special.

 

Match of the Season

 

There were some great league games this season, with my pick of the bunch probably being the two 3-2 wins over Chonburi and Suphanburi and the 2-0 home victory against Muangthong.

In all three games the final goal was scored by a Port striker with a point to prove. First Arthit showed the damage he could do as an impact sub with the winner against Chonburi, then Boskovic belied his deteriorating form to snatch the game late on against Suphanburi, and finally Josimar made up for a shocking earlier miss by blasting in a beautiful goal from outside the box, making the game safe against Muangthong. All three goals sparked wild celebrations, not just for their significance in their respective games but for giving us hope that our strikers were going to turn the corner and make a big impact on our season. The degree to which that happened is not the point; in the moment we believed, and that’s what made them so enjoyable.

None of these three matches scoop the award, though. We did after all win some silverware this season, and I’m plumping for the most hard-fought win on our road to glory: the 5-4 penalty shootout victory against Bangkok United.

 

 

Was it a great game? No, by the time the heavens had opened we were practically playing in a swimming pool, and the standard very much reflected that. There’s something about standing outside for hours in a torrential downpour, though, that makes victories that much sweeter when they eventually materialize. Captain Siwakorn saw red, putting Port a man down with the whole of extra time to play. We survived. Worawut made that stunning save with his legs, slicing his back open on the goalpost in the process. If the ball had gone in, that was probably that. His replacement Rattanai went in to the shootout facing off against the finest stopper in the league, and against all odds won his duel. Don’t even get me started on Rolando’s outrageous penalty.

An amazing evening at Army stadium, where Port put us through the wringer, but ultimately defied the odds to set Port up for their first FA Cup win in a decade.

 

Away Trip of the Season

 

I had it as ‘best game’ in our mid-season review, and I don’t think it was topped by another away trip in the second half of the season. The 3-2 away win against Chonburi had it all, and although the trip to Buriram was certainly memorable for many reasons, the feeling of helpless anger brought on by a loss against Buriram’s 14 men is no comparison to the elation felt after a late Arthit winner.

 

 

Goal of the Season

 

The polls are still open, with Sergio Suarez’ gorgeous chip against Trat currently out in front by a mile. It wasn’t even my favourite chip of the season, nor was it my favourite of Suarez’ goals. Nurul’s lofted effort against Chainat was the cheekier chip for me, whilst Suarez’ long range banger against Buriram held far more significance.

I’m in a massive minority though, and my choice for winner isn’t even in the top 5 according to the popular vote. I’m going for Josimar’s volley against Chainat, which featured wonderful buildup between the Brazilian, Bodin and Suarez, before an emphatic finish from a tricky position. First, Go’s freekick was flicked on by Bodin, before Josi took it on his chest and backheeled it back to Bodin. The Fresh Prince laid it off for Suarez, whose chipped pass found Josimar with barely any goal to aim at and a goalkeeper fast closing down his angle. Unphased, he took it first time, blasting it goalwards and finding an unlikely gap. From my spot in Zone B, Josimar was so close to the byline that I couldn’t even see him connect with the ball, but I sure as hell saw it nestle in the back of the net, and promptly joined in the slightly shocked celebrations. What a screamer.

 

 

Player of the Season

 

This is just an impossible call for me. By my reckoning, several players have been in the running for player of the year at various times, with no one standing out quite enough to take the award.

  • Worawut had some absolutely outstanding moments after winning his place mid-way through the season, and after his cup final heroics I thought he was in with a real shout. Unfortunately a couple of sub-par performances in the last few games somewhat sullied his earlier form, and he fell out of contention for me.
  • Dolah became leader of the back 4, earning his way in to a seemingly never-ending string of teams of the week, as well as some pundits’ team of the season. He even managed to get a long-overdue call-up to the national team squad, making his debut when he came off the bench against Congo. His steady performances gave Port the confidence (ill-advised confidence, one might argue) to dispense with the services of Captain Rochela in the second half of the T1 campaign, and he will go in to 2020 one of the first names on the team sheet.
  • Nitipong was once again unerringly consistent, also earning a spot in most pundits’ team of the season and forcing his way in to the national team setup. His consistency prompted our readers to vote for him in droves, as he won our poll comfortably. I’m not sold that he’s done any more than Dolah, Go or Suarez to earn the award, though.
  • Go crowned his season in the best possible way during Port’s FA Cup Final triumph. He provided a masterful assist for Suarez’ winner and was chosen as MVP, reinforcing his status as one of the top foreign players in T1. His consistent performances at the base of Port’s midfield were crucial in Port’s improved defending, and I think the South Korean can take as much credit as anyone else for Port’s most successful season this millennium.
  • Siwakorn was superb in the first half of the season, and was among those to force his way in to national team contention. His link-up play with Go and Suarez was excellent, and he really carved out a role for himself in midfield. I’m going to have to call him out on not producing enough, though. Playing in a more advanced role than go, Siwakorn scored twice and only managed one assist, while the South Korean scored three and assisted four. He just has to do more with the ball going forward for me.
  • Bodin looked like the favourite in this race until the last month or two, when his confidence faded and the goals and assists dried up. He’s still finished with a pretty damn handy nine goals and six assists, but if he’d kept the electric form he’d shown earlier up for a little while longer I think the Fresh Prince would have won. He’s shown us what he can do, now he’s got to show that he can sustain it.
  • Suarez is always in contention, and I think at times we’re guilty of taking the Spaniard for granted. He was used in an unfamiliar position up front at times, and even when he was in his favoured role he often had little to work with in front of him. His cup final winner was no more than he deserved for another excellent campaign, and his 13 goals and 9 assists were absolutely crucial in firing Port in to third place. Great work once again, Sergio.

It’s a shared award, then. I had seven players in contention at various times, and there are still four that I find it impossible to choose between. Congratulations to Dolah, Nitipong, Go and Suarez for their excellent contributions.

 

Most Improved Player

 

 

Bodin takes this one at a canter. The Fresh Prince’s extraordinary close control and his shooting from distance were outstanding, and he’s got a lot to do next season to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and that he can maintain the same form for an equal or longer period of time.

 

Most Disappointing Player

 

Unfortunately despite Port having a successful season there are a few candidates for this award.

  • Nurul isn’t 100% to blame for his decline, as it was brought about by Bodin’s superb performances. It’s tough sitting on the bench and having to produce in 15 minute bursts, but we still needed to see more from Nurul than he did in his cameo appearances. His embarrassing attempt to finish off the cup final was the final nail in his coffin, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him loaned back to Chonburi next season with Thanasit coming in.
  • Pakorn had by far his worst season in a Port shirt. I’ve always used numbers to defend him in the past, but this season I’m going to use them to beat him over the head.
    2017 – 36 apps, 6 goals, 18 assists
    2018 – 38 apps, 7 goals, 14 assists
    2019 – 28 apps, 6 goals, 3 assists
    Sorry Pakorn, but that’s just not going to cut it.
  • Boskovic, in contrast to Nurul, is entirely to blame for his poor half-season. The Monenegrin combined a stubborn refusal to enter the penalty area with abject laziness in his last few games before being dropped, and for me thoroughly deserved to be let go for the second leg. What a waste of money.
  • Unfortunately we replaced one flop with another, as Blackburn was brought in to the squad at Boskovic’s expense. The Panamanian couldn’t even nail down a place in the team, making most of his appearances from the bench. His return of five goals was actually very useful, but his performances were pretty poor. There were a couple of moments from El Toro that save him the ignominy of taking this award though, namely his magnificent bicycle kick against Suphanburi and his outrageous penalty against Bangkok United.
  • Does Chenrop even count as a disappointment if I already knew he was going to be absolutely useless?
  • Tanaboon, just because he’s so highly rated. His performances weren’t terrible, but they were in no way befitting a player getting in every national team squad. Whereas he always had Thitipan to babysit him in midfield in the past, this season he relied on Dolah to win the headers and the tackles, while he flounced around passing the ball sideways. He did perform well in the FA Cup Final, but he’s going to have to do much more to convince me he’s worthy of a place in our starting XI.

 

 

I’m picking a winner this time. Boskovic was among the highest paid players in the league, but became the latest in a long line of players to fail miserably to lead the Port line. Was he playing in his best position? No. Could he have at least tried to perform the role given to him? Yes. He didn’t.

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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